Fear and Loathing at Carnival…
When the going get weird the weird turn pro, as Raoul Duke famously said, and I am a 7-time gold medalist on this caravan. Still awake and doing my damndest to earn another shot at the medal-stand; I have yet to sleep from properly marking Lundi Gras with a Red Letter and have no plans stopping this party-train until the final whistle of Mardi Gras blows. But, I do find myself in reflective thought…
Thoughts like did I miss anything on Sunday? Was the ‘over’ in the NBA All-Star Game good? Who invented liquid soap and why? Where’s my attorney and at what time does this stop being legal?
There is a dark secret to all the glory, revelry, debauchery and extolling feasts of virginal virtues. A secret, knowing that for the entire Carnival season it is impossible to clean Bourbon Street – it is like the trash compactor scene from Star Wars – you step on things that crunch, squish, make little noises – you throw away your shoes afterward and you never, ever look down.
Furthermore, secrets of ending up on the wrong side of the Constable – If you’re one of the un-lucky ones who get arrested, AND are lucky enough to be seen again by the people that know you; then your punishment might be to clean the wretched waste of the land of misfit toys and bodily fluids. If arrested and unlucky, you are likely dumped in a swamp covered in pigs blood, never to be seen again – – There was once a truculent Fraternity-boy who talked back to a police officer on horseback, while urinating, he was escorted somewhere and when I asked the cop later, if the urinator went to jail – he said no – at home, a week later I heard of a missing fraternity-member on the Today show, who was in New Orleans at that time, and that guy looked an awful lot like the guy being dragged off on horseback in one of my pictures.
So like Cinderella, when the clock strikes midnight, get your ass off the street because it’s a damn military parade in North korea, and the jack-boots are arresting any dissenters caught messing around Ash Wednesday.
If Vegas is getting your Bachelor’s Degree in the weird and depraved, then New Orleans is your Doctorate…So, being eager to display my Doctorate of Degeneracy, I drove down to the Big Easy Sunday night and when I got to the Hotel around 9pm, the place was already like wandering into ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ – people hugging, shaking hands, big grins, a whoop-whoop here, a holla there and hues all around like a Technicolor flashback – Just as I sat down some big guy from Ala’tucky sat next to me, he was named ehhh, lets call him Bob and let’s say Bob was here to Get. It. On.
“I’m fuQn ready for anything man, you know? Anything?! Whatchoo drinkin?” I ordered a pina colada, extra ice – but he declined and said, “no-no-no son, what the hell kinda drink is that for Mardi Gras time? What’s wrong you with you?” He looked around and said “Dammit we gotsta educate you on the fina-things – gittem sum gud whiskey…” I shrugged and said “Jameson, 2-fingers neat”…Bob smiled his approval.
He leaned in and tapped me on the shoulder to make sure I was listening: “I know this Mardi Gras crowd, I come here ever’year an let me tell you sunthin I learned—this here town is no place to be given people the idea you’re some kinda backdoor deviant, if you get my meaning – not in public anyways. Shit, they’ll roll you in a minute and take every cent you have.” I thanked him for the advice and he asked if I was Krewe-affiliated – I said “no, I’m a photographer and a writer.” He eyed my leather bag with renewed interest and asked who I worked for – so I told him, Playboy.
He laughed and wondered why I would take pictures of stuff everyone has already seen a hunnered times online – I shook my head and said nothing; then just stared at him for a moment, doing my best to look grim. “there’s going to be trouble, I’m here to document the terror”
I hesitated, looked at my drink – “On bourbon street, during Mardi Gras. Jihad.” I stared at him again, “don’t you read newsweek?”
His smile disappeared and collapsed on itself, “What the hell’re you talkin about?”
“ahhh…maybe I shouldn’t be telling you….” I shrugged. “Hell, everyone else seems to know. The cops, the national guard have all been getting ready for 4 months. They have 50,000 troops on alert. They’ve warned us—all the press and photographers—to stick to the corners, wear helmets and special flak jackets – we’re told to expect shrapnel.”
“NO!” he shouted as he slammed his first on the bar, then waving off the words like they were never said. “Those sunsabitches! Lord Almighty! Mardi Gras!” he kept shaking his head and mumbling under his breath as he sunk lower into his chair – his eyes went misty as he continued, “Why? Why here? Don’t they respect anything?”
Non-chalantly I shrugged – “it’s not just the jihadists, the FBI says it’s a bunch of supremacists coming down from all over to mix with the crowd and attack all at once – all of them dressed like everyone else – so when the trouble starts….thats why the cops are freaked out”
He sat there for a moment, looking hurt and confused and not quite able to digest it all – then he cried out, “What in the name of Obama is happening to this country? Where can you get away from it?”
“not here” I said, as I grabbed my bag and thanked him for the drink, I turned and wished him good luck – the poor bastard.